The Tampa Bay Lightning will have 24 hours to forget about Saturday night’s loss and move on to the next one.
Richard Panik and Matt Carle each had goals, and Ben Bishop made 24 saves which gave the Bolts and opportunity to win, but a pair of late goals by the opposition ultimately led the New York Islanders to a 4-2 victory at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island.
The defeat was the first in regulation for the Lightning under head coach Jon Cooper, as Tampa Bay failed to pick up a point for the first time in its past five games.
New York, meanwhile, improved to 6-1-1 in its past eight games.
Michael Grabner and Josh Bailey scored for the Islanders, which also received 19 saves from Evgeni Nabokov.
Matt Martin’s goal at 13:34 of the third snapped a 2-2 tie and held up as the game-winner, and Andy MacDonald sealed the win with an empty-net tally in the game’s final minute with Bishop off in favor of the extra skater.
The Islanders’ victory helped the team register their 41st and 42nd points of the year, keeping them in the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference standings, paced ahead of the New York Rangers.
Tampa Bay, following Saturday’s defeat, remains six points out, but will have an opportunity to gain some ground Sunday night as the Bolts complete the second half of a back-to-back set in the nation’s capital against Washington.
Grabner opened the scoring at 14:45 of the first when he collected the puck off a Nate Thompson turnover and sent a sharp wrist shot uncontested past Bishop for a 1-0 lead.
Panik tied it 1-1 approximately five minutes into the second after Vincent Lecavalier sent a brilliant behind-the-back pass to his rookie teammate, who sent a wrister into an open cage from the side of the net at 4:44.
New York then went back up by a goal after Bailey outmuscled Tom Pyatt in the Lightning crease, then slipped a backhand past Bishop at 8:22 of the frame.
It didn’t last long, however, as Tampa Bay drew even for the second time early on in the third.
With Nabokov’s stick at his feet, Steven Stamkos sent a shot in from the point that hit the Islanders netminder in the chest, but wasn’t covered. Carle, in front of the net, collected the rebound and flipped a shot up into the net for his fourth of the year, which made it 2-2 exactly four minutes into the final stanza.
That was the way it stood up until Martin’s wrist shot with approximately six minutes remaining in regulation found its way through the five hole of Bishop.
It appears Bishop may have been screened and didn’t even see the puck, but otherwise played a solid game.
With New York clinging to a 1-0 lead, Bishop came up with two huge saves in final 30 seconds of the opening frame, first denying Grabner and then Bailey to prevent an even further deficit heading into the first intermission.
But Tampa Bay couldn’t capitalize on a few power play chances on the night, going 0-for-3 in total, and gave up a pair of costly turnovers, both of which led to goals at the other end, which contributed to the loss.
“We’re playing ever game like it’s Game 7 of the playoffs,” Lightning defenseman Keith Aulie said. “We know what’s at stake, we know what the standings are, but we’re focusing and just taking it game by game.”
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